Wednesday February 8, 2012
Outnumbered 49 to 1
So y’all know about my extreme discomfort identifying as a pastry chef. If not, don’t worry, last year I wrote an entire post elucidating my phobia. Maybe I’d just seen it bandied about too lightly; by culinary school grads three days outta Hyde Park, by seemingly every food blogger with a sweet tooth, and people paid to plate Sysco cheesecake with squiggles of Hershey’s syrup.
Despite doing the work of a pastry chef for the last few years, I avoided the title whenever possible. I’d call myself a baker, a pastry girl, or on a good day maybe I’d rank myself Lieutenant Commander of the Chocolate Chip Enterprise. Even Sweet Animal spelled out Ouija Board style on the menu had a more comfortable ring to it…
[photograph courtesy Robbie Clark ]
I don’t know what imaginary threshold I felt I had to cross to earn the title, I just didn’t want to claim it for myself lest, and I quote, “a cadre of real pastry chefs would find me, shame me out of the title and send me back to the kitchen to quenelle at their feet.”
Last autumn, a friend of mine from CIA had a long conversation with me about it. I argued that I don’t make architectural desserts. I’ve never trained under a famous chef. I can’t make myself dole out drops of painstakingly distilled essences. I only use gold leaf ironically. I’ve never worked in New York. I don’t do molecular gastronomy. I prefer big fat scoops to tidy quenelles. I spend more time laminating candy for homemade Butterfingers than dough for croissants.
He sat there, so unimpressed with me being unimpressed with myself, “So you’re not that kind of pastry chef, get over it.” He got all Stuart Smalley on me and went on to say I should just own it. Be the pastry chef. “And,” he concluded, “in what psycho universe will you ever find yourself facing down a gang of pastry chefs ready to send you to the bottom of the heap?”
He had a point.
I’d let the idea of becoming a pastry chef morph into some Platonic ideal, a purely aspirational goal I could never achieve. Anxiety over my own shortcomings translated into my fear of this unknown group of my betters, this gang of pastry chefs who’d kick my butt given the chance.
So I started trying to accept it; own it. To realize the only people judging me were the ones eating at Table 310 and I didn’t have to worry about anyone else. I even brazenly called myself a pastry chef on at least one occasion. In public! Queue the gang of pastry chefs, right?
Ha, ha, how could I ever think that a— oh, holy crap.
Food & Wine’s editors have nominated me, along with forty nine other pastry chefs, for an award called The People’s Best New Pastry Chef. I feel stunned, humbled and, well, totally outnumbered.
Later this month, the editors of Food & Wine will choose America’s “Best New Pastry Chef” for themselves, but the winner of The People’s Best New Pastry Chef is up to you.
If you’ve enjoyed dessert at Table 310. If you’ve come here and conquered your fear of macarons. If you’ve enjoyed my recipes, peeking into the kitchen at Table 310, or just peepin’ the photography, I hope you’ll have my back.
51 comments and counting
Feb 08, 2012 · 6:37 PM
Girrrrrl you are quite the PASTRY CHEF! Heading over to vote now
· Julie @ Willow Bird Baking · http://willowbirdbaking.com
Feb 08, 2012 · 10:33 PM
@Julie, thank you so much!
@gretchen, ahh! Too cool. I love those. Thank you ma’am!
@Carrie, ahhh, thanks!
@RobynR, haha, that’s the attitude!
Feb 08, 2012 · 10:49 PM
Just stumbled across your blog via a gooy and gorgeous pic of chocolate pudding on foodgawker. Love the blog, congrats on the nomination, just voted for you! Good luck!
· Esme · http://www.infinitefeast.com
Feb 09, 2012 · 3:52 AM
I’m happy that you are owning it! I voted for you already
· Marcela · http://thecelebrationgirl.com
Feb 09, 2012 · 5:11 AM
You have my vote Stella! I can’t believe you have a hard time with that term! You of all people! You are fantastic! I hope you win! <3
· Jemoiselle · http://www.vanillaexpressions.com
Feb 09, 2012 · 6:07 AM
@&$! yeah Stella!!!!! I’m so proud of you! You deserve this with everything you’ve put into each cookie you make. This is an amazing accomplishment no matter what the outcome. Brava girl kick some ass. my dear sweet Pastry CHEF!!! ps if you haven’t seen this you should read it here.
GOOD LUCK. I’m rootin for you!
· Kimberly (unrivaledkitch) · http://unrivaledkitch.com
Feb 09, 2012 · 9:23 AM
Just voted! Good luck to you. Love your blog and I’m not afraid of macarons anymore either. I hope to visit the restaurant soon. Just gotta figure out where it is. I live in Lexington & am dying to try your desserts.
· Mel · http://goldentweety.blogspot.com
Feb 09, 2012 · 9:23 AM
All I’m sayin’ is, I’ve got the hots for Anthony Bourdain. I voted for you, so in return if he ever visits your kitchen, you better effin call me. (Meanwhile, I’ve written an Anthony Bourdain in KY show in my head several times with me showing him around. And it didn’t even have a porny ending!)
Feb 09, 2012 · 9:40 AM
You are the best! My vote is for you!!
· Deeba · http://passionateaboutbakng.com
Feb 09, 2012 · 10:02 AM
HELL YEAH YOU’RE A PASTRY CHEF. I like your friend. He’s smart
Best of luck! I hope you win!
Also, lulz at “Lieutenant Commander of the Chocolate Chip Enterprise.”
· Kaitlin · http://www.whisk-kid.com
Feb 09, 2012 · 10:37 AM
@Karen, thank you!!
@Esme, thanks for browsing around past the puddin’! Let me know if you ever try it out.
@Marcela, I appreciate it so much!
@Jemoiselle, I know, I’m totally ridiculous. Trying to get past it….
@Kimberly, haha, I can always count on you for a shot of enthusiasm! I haven’t seen that before, I’m bookmarking it for later. Thanks for the vote and tweet.
@Kate, awesome!! The strawberry ones are especially good, they always come out with an extra nice texture.
@YogaAndBirth, that’s too funny. He’s actually in Kentucky next week! Speaking in Louisville. Why are you on the other side of the planet, get over here!!
@Deeba, thank you!!
@Kaitlin, I mean, I feel like I’m just not a Picard yet. Data, maybe.
@Mark, it’s true, but I’m just happy from all the overwhelming support I’ve gotten from my friends online. I am dying to do another tasting, I will let you know. I want to do chocolate this time…
Feb 09, 2012 · 11:03 AM
Congratulations! That’s so exciting – voted for you!
· Mary Ellen @ Pâte à Chew · http://www.pateachew.com
Feb 09, 2012 · 12:23 PM
It goes without saying that you are THE BEST PASTRY CHEF AROUND! Knock ‘em outta the park! I’ll vote early and often and get a post out tomorrow on my site!
· Kaintuckeean · http://www.kaintuckeean.com
Feb 09, 2012 · 1:00 PM
I have cast my vote for you. Anybody who can make homemade sprinkles look so fabulous like you do deserves to win. Love your blog. Good luck!
· Gretchen · http://www.culinarialibris.com
Feb 09, 2012 · 1:11 PM
Congrats and sending a vote your way!!!
· Chandra@The Plaid and Paisley Kitchen · http://www.pandpkitchen.com
Feb 09, 2012 · 1:12 PM
Congrats, Stella! Whatever you choose to call yourself (personally, I like that whole “Lieutenant Commander of the Chocolate Chip Enterprise” thing), it’s obvious that your desserts are phenomenal. They push all the right nostalgic buttons for me.
Maybe someday I’ll be lucky enough to actually eat one of those desserts, instead of sighing wistfully in front of my computer, but in the meantime you’ve got my vote. Good luck!
· Isabelle @ Crumb · http://www.crumbblog.com
Feb 09, 2012 · 2:05 PM
Amazing! Congratulations, what an honor! Off to vote!
· Kiri W. · http://www.healthyfoodietravels.net
Feb 09, 2012 · 3:53 PM
stella, i just voted for you and i love your work and your blog, so c’mon girl, be proud of yourself and your accomplishments!
i just finished my apprenticeship as a pastry chef and i can’t wait to not only be a mere apprentice (although i know i still have the world to learn)!
if you want to take a look:
anyway, u rock stella!
· jenni · http://fleurdupoirier.blogspot.com
Feb 09, 2012 · 4:12 PM
You are completely worthy of being in the running. I’ve got your back, and I voted.
I can’t wait to see how this turns out
· Rachel @ My Naturally Frugal Family · http://www.mynaturallyfrugalfamily.blogspot.com
Feb 09, 2012 · 4:17 PM
Congratulations—what a wonderful accomplishment! This is my first time visiting your site but I love your humor…I will be back.
· Cucina49 · http://www.cucina49.blogspot.com
Feb 09, 2012 · 8:31 PM
Wait. You don’t think those other pastry chefs – the other 49 nominated – are members of THE pastry chef gang your friend brushed off? That seemed so implausible… right?
I’ll be sure to vote for you. (You know… just in case.)
· movita beaucoup · http://movitabeaucoup.com
Feb 09, 2012 · 11:18 PM
@Jeanne, ahh, I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed macarons!
@Mary Ellen @ seaseatx03 Thank you!!
@Kaintuckeean, thanks so much! I’ll look both ways before texting at the corner of Mill and Short next time…
@Gretchen, awesome! A vote from Team Sprinkles!
@Chandra, thank you so much.
@Isabelle, yes. Someday, either you buy a private jet or I’m making it up to Canada.
@Kiri, thank you for you unending support; you’re wonderful.
@naleta, oh you poor thing. I worked one day weekend for a year, I feel your pain!! I hope you have a nice, long weekend sometime soon.
@jenni, good luck with your future baking, that’s great!! I’ll have to take a look.
@Flour Power, that means so much to me, thank you.
@Rachel, fingers crossed, thanks so much!!
@Cucina49, thank you so much. I can’t tell you how much that means to me, coming from a first timer!! Thank you for your support.
@movita, it’s them!! They’re the cadre of pastry chefs! I was right all along!!! Ahhhh…. Although, I suppose, to each of them, it seems I’m the one in the gang too. Hmm…
Feb 10, 2012 · 11:46 AM
Voted for you. I love reading your blog. Good luck!
· fat pig in the market · http://fatpiginthemarket.com/
Feb 10, 2012 · 12:44 PM
Congratulations! I love your blog, and hope to someday enjoy one (okay, more than one) of your creations in person.
PS I have a piece of paper that says I’m a chocolatier, but I’m definitely sticking with candy-maker for at least a few more years (lest a roving gang of chocolatiers find me out).
Feb 10, 2012 · 12:58 PM
Voted! Way to represent the great state of Kentucky, girl!
· Peggy · http://mybflikeitsoimbg.blogspot.com
Feb 10, 2012 · 1:52 PM
Yayyyyyy! Congrats Stella! I’m so happy you made it in! As you know, I adore your recipes and you’re the one who helped me make macarons (perfect on the third try!). I just voted and I’ll get my family and friends to do the same with more macarons hehe.
And while I’m here, I finally started my blog! I was wondering if it would be okay if I use your macaron recipe on my blog (with credit of course!) and if I link up to your guides as well? And, of course, I’ll mention your mega-awesomeness and ask everyone to vote for you.
Thank you for all of the wonderfullness that is your blog and recipes!
Oh and p.s – I agree that the title Lieutenant Commander of the Chocolate Chip Enterprise is da bomb. Much better sounding than pastry chef.
· Eve · http://sweeteves.wordpress.com
Feb 11, 2012 · 10:48 AM
@fat pig in the market , thanks for voting!
@Shanti, I appreciate it!
@Rebecca, OMG, I never considered that there might be another separate gang of chocolatiers meting out their bittersweet justice. STAY SAFE!!!
@Peggy, thanks, girl!
@Eve, ahh, I’m so happy to hear you jumped in with the macarons! Terrific! Congrats on getting a blog up and running too, and by all means share away.
Feb 11, 2012 · 7:49 PM
Yay thank you! I’m stilll working on Japan but I’m going to England again in two weeks so… I guess that may be a start? And I’ve also decided to finally look into the CIA. I read your post where you shared your story and the yummy looking ice cream sandwich sticky wafers and it inspired me quite a bit. You may not count yourself as a pastry chef but I’ve decided you are most definitely a pastry rockstar!
And ya the macarons have really been helping me out since I got that scale on my last trip. Lots of favors!
· Eve · http://sweeteves.wordpress.com
Feb 13, 2012 · 12:56 AM
If I could I would give you many more votes. You are a pastry chef but above all you also share your knowledge which is more than I can say for many. For that, Thank you!
I first noticed your blog and recipes through the Red Velvet Cake recipe on GiltTaste (which I have now made five times) and immediately was impressed. Please continue to share both your enthusiasm and knowledge.
I can relate to your phobia. I am almost finished with my PhD in mathematics and still have a difficult time calling myself a mathematician. Growing up I always felt that those were people with great insight and intelligence never thinking of myself as ever being able to attain such a title. Do I need to publish a zillion papers, write a few dozen books and be presented some honorable prize before I can be considered worthwhile to be called a mathematician? If so, I am slowly working my way there; I may never reach it.
I do know I have earned the respect of my colleagues which does help. You have gone above and beyond through this recognition. Even if you do not win, you have a strong following who all respect you enough to provide you their undivided attention.
Feb 13, 2012 · 10:57 AM
@Eve, ahhh! I’m so excited you get to go to England, how fun. Take loads of pics and eat everything in sight. Thanks so much for your kind words, you totally rock.
@Henc, I am so thrilled to hear you’ve made the red wine velvet! That cake has a huge place in my heart, a major labor of love. It’s funny, huh? How we decide when we’re younger who are heroes in a certain field are, and then we find ourselves doing that work but can’t imagine we’re worthy of whatever title it is we’ve worked for. It’s kind of comforting to know it’s universal. Way to rock out with math, that’s awesome!
Feb 15, 2012 · 10:53 AM
Not a pastry chef? Are you kidding? You don’t just bake. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s what I do.) You create recipes. You test them. You improve them. Dammit, you SHARE them!! You’re the real deal. The overuse (or misuse) of a word doesn’t mean the word no longer has an actual meaning. (See the Humpty Dumpty section of “Through the Looking Glass.” You’re a winner, no matter how the vote goes. Oh, and you’re also a pastry chef!
Feb 15, 2012 · 5:27 PM
Congratulations!!! And totally, totally deserved. Although I haven’t had the pleasure of eating any of your food, your blog is gorgeous and I love the tone of your writing very much. Not to mention your creations are absolutely drool-worthy!
I myself never wanted the title of Pastry Chef… I shot out of culinary school, determined that I was a SAVORY CHEF ONLY. Desserts, pssssh. I was having none of them. But then a job opportunity came up, I thought I’d do it for just a little while and then… suddenly… I was given the title (by my bosses) of Assistant Pastry Chef. Feels weird. Feels “not me”. And yet, I suppose it is me. I’m doing it, so there you have it.
Titles have a funny way of creeping up on you, am I right, Chef? Congrats again!
· The Cozy Herbivore · http://thecozyherbivore.blogspot.com
Feb 15, 2012 · 6:12 PM
@Jern, thank you so much! Haha, maybe they’ll add the Mythbuster category next year.
@justme, thank you so much for the encouraging word. I’m going to do my best to confidently claim the title in the future.
@The Cozy Herbivore, it is all too funny how life finds a way to work you around to confronting the things you’ve shied away from. I know exactly where you’re coming from. Thanks, Chef. (See! It’s a two way street….)
Feb 15, 2012 · 6:31 PM
Congratulations, Pastry Chef!
· Julie · http://www.onewallkitchen.blogspot.com
Feb 18, 2012 · 10:52 AM
@Julie, ahhh! It still sounds so weird… But thank you, dear.
Mar 07, 2012 · 9:40 AM
I know just how you feel. I often tell people I am a baker or a writer or a baker who writes.
(although I am a pastry chef and author)
Can’t imagine why I squirm about titles…
· Marcy Goldman · http://www.betterbaking.com
Mar 07, 2012 · 1:36 PM
@Marcy, funny how some of us struggle to accept titles long after we should and others snatch them up all too soon. Although once you’ve been published, I’m sure the Author Fairy delivers a crown, right?
Mar 14, 2012 · 2:07 AM
You’re modest, generous, patient, helpful and talented. That’s more than enough to clinch enough votes. Good luck! Voted for you already!
· Qi Ting · http://adessertdiet.com